Makoto Tateno, Oakla Publishing and Digital Manga Publishing, 2010
I was having a bad day Friday, so I went to Borders, hoping to be soothed by the gentle and expensive caress of European fashion magazines. Which worked out, by the way – German Vogue has a rock theme! I skipped Italian Vogue’s questionable tribute to the Gulf oil spill, but I said yes to Australian Vogue and British Elle. No Dansk, alas, but I got the September issue of Details, which has a lovely spread featuring Gabriel Aubry. Everybody loves Gabriel Aubry, of course, but I love him specifically because he is the earthly embodiment of Yohji.
Perhaps you remember my Weiss Kreuz obsession/personality disorder – Yoji is the tall, blond ladies’ man florist/assassin. (He isn’t blond in the image above, which is from Ja Weiss, a doujinshi; he is blond in the anime, though.) (I share because I care.) I find Details sort of uniquely annoying, by the way, but this is a very fine photo session.
Why the hell would you want to know any of this? Because we have no secrets! That is the nature of our relationship. And you now understand why I was suddenly in a mood so buoyant that I decided to take a chance on the manga section. Because the Borders manga section, once a joy and a constant drain on my fiscal resources, has become a source of sadness, woe, and lamentation. Much like the rest of Borders. (I would say that is a discussion for another time, but who would I be kidding? Besides, we may never pass this way again. And, does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care about time?) The manga section is a pathetic shadow of what it was two years ago, and yaoi is now a wee, tiny proportion of the pittance that is stocked. It makes me frown. It make me cross. But I was in such a good mood (a contact high from the magazines), I decided that haunting the sorely diminished Borders manga section like a hungry ghost wouldn’t make me cranky and weepy. Up the escalator I went, approximately thirty pounds of magazines (that is to say, four) tucked under my arm.
It was fascinating up there because Dave Mustaine was in the house, autographing his new book, I Was Once in a Couple of Bands that At One Point Didn’t Suck, But I Was Always an Arrogant Asshole. Hundreds and hundreds of people had purchased his book (which has a hard cover and 368 pages and costs $25.99). Frankly, I was shocked. I mean, why? Of course, I bought Walk the Way: The Autobiography of Aerosmith. Twice. So.
Let us change the subject.
(Except, did you see the video of Joe Perry knocking Steven Tyler off the stage? Joe said he didn’t do it on purpose. I’m sure the look of death was just a coincidence.) (Forty years is a long time, y’all.)
Gingerly stepping around Dave Mustaine fans, I found about five yaoi titles, all of which sucked. Except Yokan Premonition, by Makoto Tateno. I scooped this up without bothering to see what it was about or even look carefully at the cover. There’s no need – I loved Hero-Heel, Yellow, etc., and I already know what to expect from Makoto Tateno. There will be hostility and holding out and poorly drawn looks of shock and dismay. There will be garish lace pattern fills and snakeskin jackets. (And, in this one, there’s the S&M turtleneck with the buckle on it, a la Aya Fujimiya, the slightly less tall, red-headed brooding head case florist/assassin from Weiss Kreuz!) (The human brain fills in patterns, you know?)
Tateno’s characters look pretty much alike, and there is a certain mood. The particulars of the stories differ, though. Yokan Premonition turns out to be about a rock band (and lordy, I do love me some rock porn). Well, a visual kei band. Which is obviously not the same thing, but close enough, if you know what I mean.
I am wondering about the manga’s title, by the way. Yokan is a jelly made from bean paste, which doesn’t seem right on target, but there is an old-ish Dir En Grey song titled Yokan. (Dir En Grey is a visual kei band.) (A J-pop band called Heidi recently released a song with the same title; the main thing I remember from seeing the video is that the guitar player wore dropped-crotch harem/Hammer/sweat pants, and this is not a good look. Seriously.)
All right. Onward. One doesn’t like to shoot one’s wad too soon, but my favorite line in this manga is on page five: “Singing is just like masturbation.” Really? Because I had not noticed that. The deal is that Akira, the singer of the band the book is about, won’t sing a song written by anybody else, and he thinks of his music as a solitary pleasure. (I still think the metaphor went awry, but it made me laugh, so good enough.) And the setup is ridiculous, as always. (And as it should be. If I want realistic cause and effect sequences, I’ll knock over some dominoes.) Pretty little Akira, who complains that people always think he’s gay (hard to imagine why), happens to overhear a famous actor singing a fabulous self-written song to himself on a roof. I mean, that obviously happens all the time. Akira can’t get the song out of his head, and later, the famous actor, Sunaga, happens to run into Akira singing the song to himself in a hallway. He tells Akira he can have the song if he’s willing to pay the price, wink wink nudge nudge. Later still, when Akira is presenting songs to the rest of the band, they find Sunaga’s song (which Akira has scored, as one does), love it, and want to record it. For reasons that are so unclear it’s really a thing of beauty, Akira feels he must therefore record the song, and he calls Sunaga to find out exactly how much he wants.
This whole scene is delightful. Akira goes to Sunaga’s place and seems skittish. I love the dialogue. Sunaga asks, “What’s with that troubled look? What are you, too chaste or something?” “No, not chaste,” Akira says, looking miserable. “But I am a virgin.” (Insert afore-mentioned look of shock here.)
This spread perfectly demonstrates the good, the bad, and the ugly of this and most other Makoto Tateno manga. She strives for a hip, sort of edgy atmosphere, and her success is hit and miss. It hits enough to work for me, and when it misses, I find it kind of amusing and endearing. There’s also the element of one partner being aggressive, and the other partner wanting to get away – but being strangely drawn in. Tateno is a master at that plot device, if you like that kind of thing. The “symbolism” gets absurdly heavy handed – Akira’s band is called Charon, and he keeps talking about hell. Yes, yes, very clever. We get it. Now stop it. (She doesn’t.) And the art. There are some pretty panels to be found, but most of the art is not great. That final panel, where they come together, is really nothing to boast about. And yet – it works. For me, anyway – I can see how it might not be everybody’s cup of high-strung melodrama. I love the look on Sunaga’s face when he says “Come here,” and I love the understanding we get of his character when he adds, “Good boy.” I even like the twisty angsty nervous virgin stuff from Akira. Believable? Er, no. A hot setup for an absurd romance? Yes.
But all Sunaga wants is a kiss. It’s a really good kiss, with some groping, but that’s it. He cuts Akira loose – but tells him he has a better song, and if he wants that one, he’ll have to do more. And Akira realizes he doesn’t have to use the song after all. It’s cute. As the actual story unfolds, Akira reveals how obsessed he has become, and there is sex, more obsession, growth and character development, and a happy ending for everyone (except the dead guy).
Oh, and there’s a final short story called “Sinsemilla.” It is not about pot, but rather about pills, which I found puzzling, but drugs are drugs, I suppose, and there is lots of sex. There are also some extreme head to body ratio issues. No plot to speak of. Just sex, pretty much. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.